Monday, April 28, 2008

Shanghai Update!

First Night in Shanghai:

Shanghai is HUGE. I've been to alot of big cities in the US but seriously none compare to Shanghai. We have, what, four or five tall-ish skyscraper-esque buildings in Memphis? Shanghai has hundreds. Anyway, we arrived at our hotel, the Hilton Shanghai. BEAUTIFUL. After sleeping on just a box spring in Guilin (I'm serious), it was nice to come back to the comfort of a Hilton property.

We got some rest and started out walking to the Children's Palace, a sort of YMCA for Chinese kids. These facilities are all over China, but the founding facility is in a converted French mansion in Shanghai. They have all sorts of programs, all government-sponsored, from ballet and theater to biomedical technology and computer programming. After a quick tour, we went to see the ballet classes. These girls were amazing and apparently will be the future stars of Chinese ballet. We also got to see the beginners who were about 5 years old--and adorable. It was very interesting to hear that children could come to a free, government-sponsored program and train to excel just like American kids would if their parents put them in an expensive private studio program.

After finishing up at the Children's Palace, we headed off to dinner. We went to a little chic hotel called M on the Bund. The Bund is the river that splits Shanghai into two parts, Puxi and Pudong. Pudong is the up and coming area with some incredible modern buildings. Puxi is the old-world, formerly French occupied side, which is where our restaurant was. This was our view from the balcony of the restaurant:

We had a great dinner and followed it with drinks on the balcony, then moved to the "Glamour Bar" with all the adults from the tour. Very fun and very cool location. The rest of the night concluded with about five of us going to "Bar Rouge" that was a neat atmosphere with a cool view from the balcony, but had expensive drinks and an expensive cover. All in all, it was a great night and a great introduction to Shanghai's very international, modern culture.

Shanghai Shenanigans [Disney's theme for the day, not mine. I swear.]:

What a gorgeous day outside. Shanghai is near the coast and more on the southern side of China so the weather is like Southern California. We started out the day at Fu Xi park, which is hard to describe unless you actually visit the place. Basically, all the senior citizens in Shanghai gather at this park and do Tai Chi, fan dancing, ballroom dancing, sing-alongs, badminton, salsa dancing, and a variety of other activities. If you are over the age of 50, this is the place to see and be seen! There must have been over a thousand people in this one park--I loved it. Anyway, we got to participate in a sword-fighting Tai Chi and fan dancing demonstration with some local teachers. Seeing Rowdy Rod fan dance was a sight to behold! Afterwards, we got to walk around the park and see some of the great old people doing their activities. The highlights:

Our next stop was the Yu Gardens and market. This place was CRAZY. There were all kinds of knock-off watches, bags, shirts, jackets, etc. We stuck together through all the craziness and made it to the Yu Gardens. GORGEOUS. The coolest thing about Shanghai is that they have done urban planning really well, specifically all of the cultural parts they have preserved and green spaces they have created. It was such a neat mix of old and new. After our tour through the gardens, we got to SHOP. We went to a neat tea shop and had some incredible green tea and bought all kinds of tea and accessories. If you are lucky, I will bring you some back!! Anyway, I was on the hunt for some good deals so I found a little man with a North Face and Polo ad and decided to follow him to his shop. I thought it was going to be right around the corner, but he took me about two blocks away and led me down this creepy alley and did a special knock/password. When the door opened, you see all kinds of watches, sunglasses, shirts, jackets, etc. Knowing I didn't have any cash on me, I just decided to have fun with it and see how low I could get them for two polo shirts (obviously fake). After Rowdy and I walked all the way back to the market, the guy, who followed us, offered us 2 shirts for 200 RMB (about 28 US dollars). We respectfully declined.

Dinner was on our own, and after a seriously overdue nap, we had an adventure which I will choose not to get into, we finally ended up at the Blue Frog. You were right, Jon...the burger was AWESOME and very much needed. So were the "Blue Frogeritas". What a day. By the way, how cute is she:

Shanghai Day Three:

This was pretty much an "on-your-own" day and it was well needed. Ashlee and I slept until 10:30, which was also very much needed. Lunch at the market and shopping ensued and I ended up with more tea, some souvenirs, another pair of sunglasses, a Columbia jacket (which was knockoff price but I can't tell that it really is knockoff. We think it fell off the truck!), and a handfull of things bought by my family. We went back to the same shady alley store and had a great time haggling. We went down some even sketchier alleys and such. Best story of the day: Kamikaze Kim thought the guy taking us back there was a tour guide and tipped him!!!!!!!! Her haggling technique: "What's your best price you'll give me? Ok I'll take it." Hilarious.

We rejoined our fellow group members for dinner at a famous dumpling restaurant (got the pork dumplings Jon...good recommendation). Once again, we ate waaaaaaaaaay too much for our own good. We ended the night at an incredible acrobat show, CIrque-du-Soleil style. Simply awesome! Very good cap to an outstanding trek through one of the coolest cities in the world.

Off to Hong Kong and then HOME ON WEDNESDAY!!!!! Look for my next and final update!!

Get over yourself,


1 comment:

Jonathan Janis said...

nice dude. sounds like a perfect time in shanghai. glad you hit some of the hot spots. i actually went to bar rouge too. sweet balcony there. bring me back a blue frog burger!